Some of us, who as kids read Edward Everett Hale’s short story, “The Man Without a Country,” might wonder if its cautionary lesson about the dangers of renouncing citizenship could be applied to American corporations. They, after all, have been declared “people” by the Supreme Court – and so if companies, like the Army officer in Hale’s story, turn their backs on their country, do they lose their right to ever set foot on its soil again?
The question begs an answer as the new corporate fad of “inversion” takes off. This is the practice of an American corporation purchasing a smaller foreign one that makes the same products in order to claim the national “citizenship” of the purchased company. By doing so, the U.S. company dodges a tax bill from Uncle Sam without its CEO having to learn a single word of the language of his or her company’s adopted country.